Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/01/18/space_junk_talks_gather_pace/

Australia, US agree to space junk talks

America adds ‘national security’ caveats

By Richard Chirgwin

Posted in Science, 18th January 2012 23:30 GMT

Australia and America have decided that Europe’s moves against the half-a-million items of space junk might be a good thing.

Australia’s participation was announced January 18 (Australian time) by foreign minister Kevin Rudd, while Space.com reports that Hilary Clinton issued a statement on January 17 (US time).

America’s participation in developing an international code of conduct is conditional on the agreement not hindering national security efforts. However, she agreed that both junk and what she calls “irresponsible actors” are threatening work in space, and the international agreement is the best way to reduce such threats.

Australia’s Kevin Rudd stated that "Everything from aircraft and ship navigation, to electronic commerce, communications, climate monitoring and disaster management, not to mention many of our defence systems, all rely on satellites," noting that the development of space weapons systems is also a threat.

The participation of the world’s major space power is probably more important than Australia’s endorsement, and it will still be some time before the discussions yield any concrete outcome, since all that’s happened so far is a couple more parties have agreed to join discussions.

And America remains firm that the current European proposals would have to be modified before it signs anything. “"As we begin this work, the United States has made clear to our partners that we will not enter into a code of conduct that in any way constrains our national security-related activities in space or our ability to protect the United States and our allies," Space.com quotes Clinton as saying.

On January 13, some debris passed close by the International Space Station after being tracked since last year. ®